We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The middle of Rosemary’s story begins in winter of 1996. It has been 10 years since Rosemary has last seen her brother (Lowell) and 17 since Fern “disappeared.” She describes the events that took place in the world during that time, and notes that she looks “ordinary” in comparison to them. She is 22 and in her fifth year at the University of California, Davis, though she has not fulfilled nearly enough requirements to graduate. This annoys her parents, who are still financially supporting her. Rosemary’s father is a college professor and tries to teach her something during every one of their interactions.
In the prologue, Rosemary’s family is presented as “normal” and harmonious. In this passage, however, a contradictory image of the family emerges, one that is defined by mysterious absence and loss. Rosemary indicates a further source of tension in relation to her own education. Education and knowledge are clearly important within her family, not least because her father is a professor. However, Rosemary herself is meandering through college in a somewhat aimless manner.
Themes
Family, Tradition, and the Past Theme Icon
Absence, Silence, and Denial Theme Icon
Science, Knowledge, and Experiments Theme Icon
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon
One morning, Rosemary is cycling to class when a flock of Canada geese flies past above her. At this time in her life she often feels “wild.” During lunch, Rosemary is in the cafeteria when she witnesses a fight between a girl (Harlow) and her boyfriend. The girl knocks the dishes from their table and they smash on the floor. She then shouts at her boyfriend, mocking him for wanting “space.” A bystander tells the girl to “take a chill pill,” to which she replies: “Don’t side with assholes.” Her boyfriend (Reg) calls her a “psycho bitch” and requests the key to his apartment. She swings a chair at him for a second time, yelling: “Come and get it!” This makes Rosemary laugh. The boyfriend leaves, telling the girl that their relationship is over.
The presence of the geese overhead and Rosemary’s comment that she is feeling “wild” introduce the importance of animals (and animalistic behavior) within the novel. Although it is not made explicit, there is a connection between Rosemary’s feelings of wildness and the wild behavior of Harlow in the cafeteria. Rather than being offended or disturbed by Harlow’s behavior, Rosemary is intrigued and entertained, as shown by the fact that she laughs at Harlow’s command to “come and get it.” The two girls do not yet know each other, but there is already a subtle sense of affinity between them.
Themes
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon
The campus police arrive and approach Rosemary, telling her to put down her glass of milk and plate of half-eaten grilled cheese. A cafeteria worker explains that they have the wrong person, but the police officer ignores her. Meanwhile, Harlow raises the chair and throws it across the room. Immediately after, Rosemary lets her plate drop to the floor and smash. She holds up her glass of milk, and—in spite of the officer urging her not to—throws it on the ground.
The end of the chapter emphasizes the affinity between Rosemary and Harlow. Despite not knowing Harlow, Rosemary is compelled to imitate Harlow’s deviant behavior. Both girls have an untamed, destructive quality to their personality, and resist control by figures of authority (namely the campus police).
Themes
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon